2015 American St. Leger Stakes Preview

The newest addition to the Arlington Million day lineup is the American St. Leger Stakes.  Listed for the last three years, it will be run as a Grade III for the first time this year.  The first two editions of the American St. Leger were annexed by horses owned by Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock: Jakkalberry in 2012, and Dandino in 2013.  Dandino returned last year to defend his crown, but could not catch Illinois-bred THE PIZZA MAN.


THE PIZZA MAN proves upper crust in the 2014 American St. Leger.

This year’s edition, a $350,000 affair, initially drew eleven runners.  However, #6 THE PIZZA MAN is cross-entered in the Arlington Million and the American St. Leger.  Owner Richard Papiese of Midwest Throughbreds stated at the draw ceremony that THE PIZZA MAN will be running in the Arlington Million; this preview assumes that he will not be running in the American St. Leger.

Selections are for turf only.  Selections updated on Friday, August 14 to reflect the anticipated scratch of CALVADOS.

Race 7: American St. Leger (GIII), three-year-olds and up, one and eleven sixteenths miles on the turf, post time 3:42pm CST

This space was bullish on CALVADOS after his nightmare trip in the Stars and Stripes (GIII), but Ignacio Correas informed Picks and Ponderings that he tied up the day before the race, and would be scratched.  As he did not stand to be part of the speed, there should still be pace to attack here — CALVADOS simply will not be the one to do it.

The team of Chad Brown and Irad Ortiz, Jr. have been unstoppable in New York.  This weekend, they ship south to send out HYPER in the American St. Leger.  HYPER returned in May from a year and a half layoff, but has returned in the sort of form to suggest he is the same sort of horse he was before the lay.  He finished third behind Twilight Eclipse in the Man o’ War (GI) in his first start off that lay, and though his Manhattan (GI) was disappointing, he stretched back out to 1 1/2 miles last out in the Singspiel (GIII – CAN) and finished third.  This will be Ortiz’s first time on HYPER, and that may be exactly what this eight-year-old son of Victory Gallop needs to get it back together for good.  The pace scenario should also unfold favourably for HYPER.  A stalking to midpack type, he should have the lead in his sights, and be able to stay out of any front-end shenanigans between ROMAN APPROVAL, AZ RIDGE, and quite possibly XTRA LUCK to tire him out.  HYPER has done his best work going long, and even has a win going a mile and five eighths, so the three turns of the American St. Leger should suit him well.  Also coming out of a Canadian race, though the Nijinsky (GII) and not the Singspiel, is LUCKY SPEED.  This five-year-old son of 2001 Arlington Million winner Silvano finished fourth that day, but it was his first race since September of last year.  His best races were in 2013, at three, but at four he was keeping much tougher company lines than this race here: they contain the likes of Ivanhowe, Sea the Moon, Protectionist.  He should be sharper here, and his race 2013 Deutsches Derby (GI – GER) win over turf rated good suggests that he does not need a swamp to run well.  Pacewise, he should be another one able to sit off the speeds, and has some versatility as to how far back he can sit.  Though he has not gone past a mile and a half yet, having Silvano on top and Monsun on the bottom suggests that, pedigree-wise, he is better set to go a mile and eleven sixteenths than anyone here.

Finally, depending on which PANAMA HAT shows up to the races, he could threaten at a square price.  He has not been the most consistent horse out there, but when he is good, he is good.  He went on a tear last year in which he won five straight races, including three in one week.  Those were bookended with second-place finishes.  Those all came in handicap-level company, though Group races in Ireland have been a bridge too far.  However, he has prevailed at distances as long as a mile and a half, and finished a close second behind Kingfisher in a handicap at Leopardstown going a mile and three quarters.  Kingfisher franked the form of that race in his next start — the Gold Cup (GI – ENG) at Royal Ascot, one of the world’s premier stayers’ races.  There, Kingfisher finished second behind Trip to Paris.  That is a strong form line to carry into this race.  Pacewise he has shown versatility, running good races from near or well off the pace.  He carries a feather-light 119 pounds here, an impost lighter than he has carried in over a year (by 10-21 pounds).  If PANAMA HAT brings his better form across the ocean, he should be a factor.

Selections:

#7 HYPER (7/2)

#3 LUCKY SPEED (5/1)

#1 PANAMA HAT (10/1)

Longshot:  An Illinois-bred has hit the board in all three editions of the American St. Leger to date.  Ioya Bigtime finished second in the first running, Suntracer was second in 2013, and THE PIZZA MAN won last year.  This year’s Illinois hopes for this race rest on the withers of ALPHA KITALPHA, who scratched from the Black Tie Affair Handicap last weekend to run here instead.  He is third off the lay for frequently live trainer Wayne Catalano, but as an allowance level runner who has not won in almost two years, he looks to be outclassed here.  Instead, consider his shorter-priced (but still longshot) stablemate from the Cat Man’s barn: #11 HIGHBALL (15/1).  HIGHBALL has yet to have his stakes breakthrough yet, but has hit the board in a few graded stakes — including the 2014 American Derby (GIII), in which he finished third.  Last out he scored his first win of the year, beating a salty allowance field at Churchill going nine furlongs.  He tends to come from well off the pace, which should work with AZ RIDGE and ROMAN APPROVAL on the front end.  HIGHBALL also gets a change to Jose Valdivia, Jr., the hottest jockey on the Arlington grounds.  Valdivia and Catalano have had a +$1.00 ROI over the last two months, and that figure stands to go up if HIGHBALL likes the stretch out.  That remains a question, but his late-closing performance in his longest race yet (the aforementioned American Derby) suggests the stamina may be lurking.

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